I hesitate to write these words in such a public space.
But I can’t keep it secret any longer.
I have an addiction and it’s killing me.
It started innocently enough. A few web pages here, a site or two there… And now?
I think it’s withering my soul.
Internet porn? Nah.
No, my addiction is more sinister still. I’m addicted to reading anti-emergent church stuff.
I’ve tried and tried and tried to kick it, but I always find myself right back where I started. Why can’t I leave it alone?
But for some reason, like the proverbial moth drawn to the burning heretic’s body, I just can’t stay away.
I hate the mischaracterizations, the overly-broad descriptions, the none-too-charitable critiques. But I feel compelled to read them. I cannot stop myself. And here’s what I’m beginning to believe…
Maybe this is penance.
Because in amongst all the ad hominems and the straw men, I think I perceive staring back at me… myself.
One of the best things to come out of the experience of swimming through all this bile is the thought “Well, I guess I know how the Purpose-Driven Church folks must have felt while the emerging church was sharpening its skewers and gathering its kindling.” To say that we were generous in our critiques of the churches and traditions we came from would be… uh, generous. With the best of (and sometimes probably less-than-the-best-of) intentions we questioned much of the Church growth movement’s methodology and even motivations. And we often, in my opinion, even sank to questioning people’s commitment to the Gospel, suggesting instead that their real desire was for empire, not Kingdom.
I guess I should only speak for myself, so here goes.
I still think that much of the American church needs reform. I still think that certain approaches in doing church lead to certain unintended consequences that may not be good for the shape and direction and health of the church in general… but through the midst of this I think I have learned that “Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” If I have something to say, especially the hard critique of cherished programs and ways of doing church, then maybe if I come as a friend, I’ll be heard, even if what I have to say hurts.
Nobody listens to an enemy.
Bob Hyatt is husband to Amy, father to Jack and lead pastor to the evergreen community in Portland, OR (www.evergreenlife.org). He is also in the beginning stages of launching the nextChurch network (www.nextchurchnetwork.org), dedicated to encouraging church planting through encouraging church planters.